Earlier this year, parishes and schools across San Diego and Imperial counties held 1,100 small-group sessions to listen to the faithful’s experiences in the Church and their hopes for its future, in a process called a synod.

Parishes, schools and other Catholic organizations submitted reports to the diocese that summarized the points made by participants in the small-group sessions. They included parishioners, students and individuals living on the margins of society, such as the homeless, new immigrants, farmworkers, the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated.

The report is available in English and Spanish in the July issue of The Southern Cross and on the webpage sdcatholic.org/synod, which also presents information about the entire consultation.

Some excerpts from the report:

The synodal dialogues revealed a profound split within the Catholic community about the issues of acceptance versus conformity with rules. 

Many men and women spoke of their disagreement with the idea that the Church will not ordain women or married priests, and these participants pointed to a history and culture of according only a secondary status to the group that forms the majority of the believers and volunteers in the Church. The LGBT community got even more attention than women. There were significant expressions of support for the Church’s efforts to invite LGBT Catholics into the heart of the Church at the present moment, but a sadness that these efforts are not more widely and deeply embedded. 

“The Church does not seem to have a clear message on how they view people who have same-sex attraction or LGBT,” one participant said. “There does not seem to be a clear guidance on that issue.” Many participants expressed the view that Church doctrine is quite clear on debated issues, but the Church’s current leadership has intentionally obscured that teaching on LGBT issues and other topics, including abortion. These Catholics raise concerns that Pope Francis has introduced a corrosive ambiguity into the heart of Catholic moral doctrine. They are highly critical of Bishop McElroy for this same reason. Participants who share this viewpoint worry that Catholic doctrine lies on a slippery slope in these days, and propose that sharpening the line between the Church and secular society would have a reinvigorating effect for the Catholic community. 

The ideological divisions of the current moment are tragically present in parish communities, leaving individuals ranging from proponents of Laudato Si to homeschool families with the sense that they are suspect by significant elements of the parish community. Even though Catholic social teaching calls for a dedication to the wide spectrum of issues that are morally compelling in the present moment, there is dramatic disagreement about what this means. Many participants believe that the preeminence of abortion as a moral evil in our society constitutes an overriding claim upon the Catholic conscience; these men and women see fighting for legal protections for the unborn as purely a moral issue, not a political one. The countervailing group in the parishes see poverty, race, immigration and the environment as an equally important set of issues to be addressed in society. 

Immediately after the completion of the synodal dialogues, the Commissions recognized that there had to be timely followup to major issues which had surfaced in our parishes and at the diocesan level. During the dialogues, many participants expressed the fear that the conclusions of the listening sessions would simply be put on the shelf; that no substantive follow-up would occur. The commissions felt that there was a great danger of this happening, especially because the global process points to the culmination of the synod and an Apostolic exhortation in 2024. 

Full story at The Southern Cross.